Connect 4

December 1, 2013 Post Comment Uncategorised

I was on a train the other day and four young lads got
on and came and sat across the aisle from me. I surmised they were good buddies
from their casual demeanour and body language – and there were no particular leaders and followers, they were just
cool and comfortable in each other’s company. I expected conversation, banter,
some quips, some laughter, and a general raising of the dynamic in the part of
the carriage nearest to me.

Then they all got out their mobile phones and
started texting, or tweeting, or answering emails, or going on InterFace or
some other Tinterweb book, or … whatever. Essentially they had retreated
inside their electronic shells like hermit crabs with super-dextrous thumbs. In
world terms it is a balance of real and virtual.

Now back in the day I can remember hanging out with
mates and occasionally we’d go to the cinema. One favourite morsel of fare was
Westerns – and we’d all leave the cinema talking like John Wayne or walking
like Robert Mitchum, shooting things with a finger pistol and blowing down the
imaginary barrel.
In world terms it was a balance of real and virtual.

So not much has changed, has it?

Well, on the face of it – no; but here’s the thing
that really flags up in the real 21st Century world …

When Lad A and Lad C spontaneously started laughing
I thought it was a moment of cosmic synchronicity – until I realised they were
communicating with each other by text. Then Lad A showed Lad B his phone screen,
as did Lad C to Lad D – and then they started laughing as well!

An interesting and maybe fascinating form of Connect-4.



So where is all this leading, because nothing ever stands
still does it? This whole developmental train is moving in some direction isn’t

Is the art of communication expanding outwards, like
the universe after the Big Bang – or is its diversity fading?

Will certain communication skills that we diligently
encourage children to develop “into the muscle”, then atrophy in the conduit of
the monotone digital interface? Will, in some bizarre Darwinian twist of
selection, our tongues fall silent and our ears dissolve?

Is the train hurtling towards the buffers of some not
too distant terminus; where the need to develop our sense of identity is
irrelevant in comparison to the bandwith of our electronic capabilities; where
no one really Minds because our brains are just sophisticated computers; where eventually
the only true sense of one’s identity is encapsulated in their “Me
Myself and I Phone”.

I’ve had some amazing and wonderful connections
these last few weeks, with people just happy and comfortable with making meaningful
conversations the “old fashioned” way. Interestingly, the topic of all things communicative
and interactive gravitating towards the Insular-Virtual axis, just kept
coming up.

Mobiles have already become comfort blankets for our insecurities. Public gathering and meeting
places, places where people have to wait for something to happen or arrive, and
other similar venues are where you can witness a lot of symptoms in action.
It starts with our hands – we have to do something with our hands – keep them
occupied. Smoking a cigarette used to keep our hands busy, however nowadays it is the mobile
that fits the bill. I find I do it myself when alone, waiting – I reach for the
mobile, only 30 seconds after I’d put it back in my pocket.
Then there’s the self-esteem thing when no one has rung, texted or emailed for
a period of time. It starts with “I wonder why not?” and ends with, “What’s
wrong with me?”

Stress, anxiety, OCD, addictive behaviour, low
self-esteem, lack of confidence, boredom – your friendly virtual interfaces
will help you with all of the above, by the feeding of your insecurities for a seemingly
miniscule fee per session.  

The “Quiet
on some of our trains seems to be a particular battleground –
which is perhaps why I like to travel in them, like some kind of War Correspondent!
Only last week I witnessed a near fight when a fellow traveller took exception
to someone’s audible mobile ringtone. (QC
passengers are requested to turn off mobiles and keep noise to a minimum as a
courtesy to other rail users.) He ended up effing and blinding at the top of his
voice at the perp – which was a total irony.

The danger with all interfaces is that they become
reliable and familiar middlemen. Through that reliability and familiarity they
become more than useful, they become indispensable.
“I don’t know how we ever did without
is something we’ve heard said all too often.
The danger with all
middlemen is that, when everything is scaled up, the middlemen become increasingly
important and increasingly powerful.

At the moment, in parts of our culture populated by people like Lads A-D,
the mobile phone middleman is further up the importance scale than both the
imparters and the receivers. Without the middleman people would have to talk to
each other – OMG! They would have to form sentences and use tonal inflections in
their voices AND act out their acronyms!
“Please help! Can somebody tell me what
do I need to do to ROFL?”

There is an interesting factor about the
communications middlemen and it is this. In any part of the globe you will find
that for those who actually sign up to being part of the modern world, all
people seem to have either one or both of these:- television; mobile phone. There
can be widespread and abject poverty and no money for food – yet there they
are! And how are the TVs and mobiles provided for, as I’m sure they don’t come
free? Unless they are hands free of course, LOL!


Long gone are the days when the pen was mightier
than the sword; now the pen is being out-muscled by the key-pad and productive
sex – sorry, predictive text. And the next metamorphosis is…?

Remember this:-
Knowledge is Power – Communication is
Knowledge – Power is Communication.

It is just another form of Stone – Paper – Scissors innit?!

when all is said and done – what DO we connect for?